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Whether you’re preparing for your first backpacking trip or packing the night before your once-in-a-lifetime, it’s important to remember the essentials with a backpacking checklist. I’ve been backpacking for decades, and have based the below checklist off of what I always review before heading into the backcountry. Download a copy for yourself so that you can adjust and annotate it to fit your needs.
Backpacking Checklists for Kids, Dogs, and Reluctant Backpackers
Whether you’re bringing your kids, your dog, or your significant other for the first time, here are the camping or backpacking checklists you need to make it a success.
Gear Recommendations for Your Backpacking Checklist
When you’re ready to round out your backpacking gear list with some best-in-class options, we’ve done the testing to get you started.
Your backpack should feel more like your friend than a burden you have to carry. Laura Lancaster
Our top pick: Osprey Exos
Best for women: Gregory Deva
Ultralight pick: ULA Circuit
Comfort pick: Six Moon Designs Swift X
Our top pick: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
Budget pick: Kelty Discovery Trail
Winter pick: MSR Access 1 or Access 2
Our top pick: MSR Groundhog
Lightest: MSR Carbon Core
Best holding power: Big Agnes Dirt Dagger UL
See the in-depth review: Best Tent Stakes
Sleeping Bags or Quilts
Our top pick: Loco Libre Gear Ghost Pepper
Best for tall people: Enlightened Equipment Revelation
Traditional pick: NEMO Forte
Budget pick: REI Co-op Trailbreak 20 Sleeping Bag
See also: How to Choose a Sleeping Bag
Our top pick: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite NXT
Best for cold sleepers: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm
Best features: Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Air Sleeping Mat
Budget pick: Big Agnes Insulated AirCore Ultra
See also: Inflatable Versus Closed-Cell Foam
Our top pick: Therm-a-Rest Air Head Down Pillow
Memory foam pick: NEMO Fillo Backpacking & Camping Pillow
See the in-depth reviews: Best Backpacking Pillows
Clothing is a critical part of any backpacking checklist.
Our top pick: Fjallraven Abisko Wool Short-Sleeve
Fastest drying: Ibex Journey Tee
See the in-depth review: Best Hiking Shirts
Our top pick: Royal Robbins Alpine Mountain Pro Pants
Bushwhacking pants: Kuiu Attack Pants
Budget pick: REI Co-op Savanna Trail Pants
See the in-depth review: Best Hiking Pants
Our top pick: Ibex Women’s Natural Brief
Best Synthetic: Patagonia Women’s Active Hipster
See the in-depth review: Best Hiking Underwear for Women
Our top pick: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew
Made in the USA: Farm to Feet Damascus ¾ Crew
Trail running pick: Smartwool Athlete Edition Run Mountain Print Crew Socks
Budget pick: REI Co-op Merino Wool Lightweight Crew
Hybrid: Danner Trail 2650 Campo GTX
Maximalist: Hoka Speedgoat
Minimalist: Altra Lone Peak
Budget: Merrell Moab
See the in-depth reviews: Best Trail Running Shoes, Best Hiking Shoes, Best Waterproof Hiking Shoes, Best Women’s Hiking Shoes, Waterproof Hiking Shoes for Women, Men’s Hiking Shoes, Best Hiking Boots, Hiking Boots for Men, Hiking Boots for Women, Best Thru-Hiking Shoes
Our top pick: Montbell Super Merino Wool Lightweight
Ventilation for sweaty hikers: Smartwool Intraknit
Budget pick: Uniqlo Heattech Ultra Warm
Our top pick: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
For kids: Big Agnes Ice House Hoodie
Budget pick: Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket
See the in-depth review: Best Puffer Jackets
Our top pick: Arc’teryx Beta LT
Eco-friendly pick: Patagonia Storm 10
Budget pick: Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite Suit
See the in-depth review: Best Backpacking Rain Jackets
Cooking and Water Treatment
Our top pick: MSR PocketRocket
All-in-one pick: Jetboil Stash
Budget pick: GSI Glacier Camp Stove
Our top pick: MSR Piezo Igniter
Refillable: Zippo Chrome Lighter
Budget pick: BIC
See the in-depth review: Best Camping Lighters
Our top pick: Sawyer Squeeze
Fastest flow: Platypus QuickDraw
Treatment drop pick: Aquamira
See the in-depth review: backpacking water filters
Our top pick: Garmin inReach Mini 2
Lowest Upfront Cost: ZOLEO
Budget pick: SPOT Gen4
See the in-depth review: Best Personal Locator Beacons and Satellite Messengers
Our top pick: BioLite Headlamp 325
Best battery life: Petzl Tacitkka +RGB
Budget pick: Decathlon Forclas HL 500
See the in-depth review: Best Headlamps
Our top pick: Opinel Nomad Cooking Kit
Lightweight: Benchmade Bugout
See the in-depth review: Best Camping Knives
Personalize your backpacking checklist with these pieces of gear.
Our top pick: Leki Makalu FX Carbon
Value pick: Cascade Mountain Tech Ultralight Carbon
Minimalist: Zpacks Minimalist Trekking Pole
See the in-depth review: Best Trekking Poles
Our top pick: Goal Zero Flip 12
Water-resistant pick: Goal Zero Venture 35
Budget pick: Mophie Powerstation
Our top pick: Costa Caleta
Ultralight pick: Maui Jim Wailua
Budget pick: Goodr Everglades
See the in-depth review: Best Hiking Sunglasses
We answered the most popular backpacking packing questions. Laura Lancaster
Q: What should backpackers carry?
Backpackers should plan to carry shelter, a sleep system (including a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad), appropriate clothing for the temperatures they expect to see, and food and water (or water treatment). Our checklist (above) includes other items that can help ensure your safety in the great outdoors including sunscreen, a headlamp, and a personal locator beacon. If you are backpacking for the first time, consider consulting with someone more experienced or heading out on a shorter distance trip until you are comfortable with the kit you are taking with you.
Q: What should I pack for a 3 week backpacking trip?
Longer trips can be logistically complicated because of the additional weight you will need to carry. While overnight backpackers might plan to bring a separate out for each day they are out on the trail, for longer trips it can be more expedient to bring along a biodegradable soap and lightweight clothes line so that you can do your laundry as you go. Some backpackers may even appreciate bringing along one of the best camping showers. While bringing along a personal locator beacon is a smart idea on any backpacking trip, it’s extremely important on longer trips where you may have fewer check-in points along the way. When planning out your food strategy, especially if have limited resupply options long the way, consider carefully how much fuel you will need and whether you would benefit from going cook-free for any part of your journey.
Q: What don’t you need for backpacking?
It’s common for first-time or inexperienced backpackers to carry more weight than they need. There are a number of reasons for this, from not appreciating how numerous small items can compound to add a lot of extra weight to their kit, to bringing superfluous items (like tools or unnecessary articles of clothing) just in case. The above checklist covers everything you need for backpacking, in most conditions. Anything beyond that list can be considered “extra” and should be limited in scope.
Q: What is a typical backpacker outfit?
Most typical backpackers wear a synthetic or merino wool T-shirt, running shorts, and trail running or hiking shoes. In environments where ticks (and Lyme disease) are a concern, backpackers typically wear longer pants for protection. In extremely hot-weather and/or exposed environments some backpackers will wear lightweight long pants and long-sleeve shirts.
Q: What is a zero in backpacking?
A zero in backpacking refers to taking a day off at a trail town (or occasionally on trail), hiking zero miles along your route in a day.
Q: What are the heaviest backpacking items?
The heaviest backpacking items are called “the Big 3,” and refer to your backpacking backpack, your tent, and your sleep system (sleeping bag and pad).
Q: How much weight should a beginner backpacker carry?
Beginner backpackers should aim to carry no more than 25 to 35 pounds total, depending on their personal size and weight (since larger individuals will need larger gear and typically eat more food).
Q: Is a 40-liter backpack enough for 3 days?
A 40-liter backpack is enough for three days of backpacking, if it can hold all of your gear. If you are a first-time or beginner backpacker, you likely have a bulkier sleeping bag and tent than someone who has been backpacking for a long time and has invested in more space-efficient, lighter weight gear. If you are purchasing a backpack for the first time, then a 40-liter backpack can help ensure you don’t overpack your gear. However, if you are looking at upgrading your kit and are unsure as to whether your kit will fit into a 40-liter pack, it may be better to look at upgrading your tent or sleep system first.
Q: Do you wear deodorant backpacking?
While there is the occasional backpacker who wears deodorant, the vast majority do not.
Q: How much water should I bring backpacking?
How much water you should bring backpacking depends on a few factors. The first, and most important, is the availability of water along your trek. If no water is available, you will need to carry enough water for your trek. Conversely, if water is available every few miles, you should instead carry one of the best backpacking water filters and plan to collect water as you hike. Frequently, the reality is something in between; there is some water available, but not enough that you can simply stop a stream every time your bottle runs dry. In those instances, you should evaluate how far you plan to hike in a day, and the longest distance is between water sources. Most people will need to drink about a gallon of water in a day (more in hotter environments), plus water for cooking or cleaning. Plan to carry sufficient water capacity (around 4 to 8 liters) in the form of water bottles or water reservoirs along with a backpacking water filter.
Q: How can I purify my water naturally?
While there are bushcraft techniques for purifying water in the backcountry, these are rarely practical for backpackers, who will be moving from camp to camp each day. The exception to this is boiling water for one minute. If you plan to go this route, plan to bring plenty of fuel, if it is not available naturally in your environment.
Q: Is 40 pounds heavy for backpacking?
Forty pounds is heavy for backpacking. Most backpackers should expect to carry between 25 and 30 pounds for an overnight, with heavier loads occurring for longer distances or in unusual circumstances (such as winter backpacking or backpack hunting).
See also: How to Pack a Backpack
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Final Thoughts on the Backpacking Checklist
Having the right gear on a backpacking trip can make or break your hike. We’ve compiled a backpacking checklist of our favorite picks, based on decades of experience. Keep this checklist handy and you’ll never forget a piece of your kit again.
The post Backpacking Checklist: Don’t Forget These Must-Have Items appeared first on Outdoor Life.
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